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best of new zealand’s north & south islands

14-Day Trip to See New Zealand's Highlights

New Zealand is a nature-lover’s dream, with awe-inspiring landscapes that are something right out of a story book (or the movies!). Enjoy sweeping views across the bay and a day on Waiheke Island revered for its beaches and fabulous wineries. Explore Rotorua, surrounded by lakes, mountains and forests and known for bubbling mud pools, geysers, natural hot springs and fascinating Maori culture. Delight in fine wines and produce in the Hawke’s Bay region, renowned as one of New Zealand’s richest agricultural areas.

Venture to Te Anau on the South Island to view the impressive rock formations of Milford sound created by a succession of glaciers which carved through the rocks as they gouged a track to the sea. Home to some diverse and particularly unusual wildlife including fur seals and crested penguins, as well as bottlenose and dusky dolphins, this geographical gem is a must-see! Your final destination is Queenstown. Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty of the area makes it great place for adventure, exploration and relaxation.

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Day 1 – Arrive Auckland: Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand! After clearing immigration and customs, you will met by your representative and transferred to your hotel. Overnight at Hilton Auckland Hotel.

Hilton Auckland Hotel is a nautically-inspired hotel which sits on the end of Princes Wharf, home to a wide variety of fine shops, restaurants and bars. The Cloud Convention Center, New Zealand Maritime Museum and downtown Auckland are within a 10-minute walk. Get a unique view of the harbor through the outdoor lap pool’s underwater viewing window.

Day 2 – Auckland: Enjoy breakfast before a 40 minute ferry ride to one of the best island escapes in the world! Waiheke Island is revered for its beaches, fabulous wineries and stunning emerald landscapes. On arrival at Matiatia Wharf you will be met by your private driver and vehicle for a food and wine tour of the island. You will be accompanied by an experienced guide who is intimately familiar with Waiheke’s history, culture, people and produce and a great wine enthusiast. Enjoy succulent fresh oysters, award-winning olive oil and other locally-produced specialty foods, accompanied by wines from some of the Island’s top boutique vineyards. Culinary treats may include oysters straight from Te Matuku Bay, wild honey, the famous local green herb spread and artisan cheeses. Continue to a winery to enjoy a vineyard platter lunch, which has been included today. Following lunch if time allows, visit Oneroa Village where you can wander the boutique shops and art galleries or take a stroll along the beach. This afternoon you will be returned to Matiatia Wharf prior to your return ferry journey. Overnight at Hilton Auckland Hotel.

Day 3 – Rotorua: Today enjoy a scenic-self drive to Rotorua known for bubbling mud pools, geysers, natural hot springs and fascinating Maori culture. Driving south to Waitomo (approximately 2 hours drive) stop at the famed Waitomo Glowworm Caves, where you will marvel over the ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos. The glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as your guided tour takes you through over 820 ft of stunning underground scenery. The tour concludes with a boat ride, glide silently through the starry wonderland of the glowworm grotto, meandering along the Waitomo River under this galaxy of tiny living lights (1 hour duration). Following your tour continue driving to Rotorua and to your accommodation (approximately 2 hours drive). Overnight at Solitaire Lodge.

Solitaire Lodge, one of New Zealand’s premier luxury lodges, enjoys breathtaking views over Lake Tarawera, with lush natural bush and volcanic landscape backdrop. The subtle design brings the outdoors in, inviting you to unwind and soak up the peace and quiet of this tranquil setting. Minutes from this iconic North Island resort you will discover a multitude of activities. The lodge is also the perfect place to simply relax, indulge and rejuvenate, left in the able hands of your warm, friendly New Zealand hosts.

Day 4 – Rotorua: This morning enjoy a Tarawera Falls walk. This invigorating half day experience begins with a short speedboat transfer to the trout laden Tarawera outlet stream – the starting point for the scenic hike. The stream is the outlet for several lakes and eventually heads underground to emerge later as a spectacular 200 foot high waterfall. Walk through native bush of the Pohutukawa and Rata trees with native bird sounds of Tuis, Fantails and Kereru. Rest and bathe in river swimming holes along the way and indulge in a picnic lunch to the rhythmic background of cascading waters (total duration is 4 hours – approximately 3 hours walking time). Whilst at leisure at Solitaire Lodge we recommend the following signature experiences:

– Take a private boat across the lake to hidden natural hot springs, and have them all to yourself.

– Fly by helicopter to the twin volcanoes of White Island and Mount Tarawera, the latter which exploded with such veracity it was seen in Europe, and the former still very much active!

– Troll the lake for trout on a half or full day fishing excursion, and have the onboard chef cook up the spoils for lunch.

– Explore the lake on complimentary kayaks and motorized dinghies.

Overnight at Solitaire Lodge.

Day 5 – Hawke’s Bay: Today enjoy a scenic drive south to the art deco Hawke’s Bay region (approximately 3 hours drive). En-route enjoy a visit to Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters) New Zealand’s most colorful and diverse active volcanic area with dramatic geysers, mineral terraces, lakes, craters and bubbling mud pools. As you follow the trails you are introduced to a uniquely different natural landscape, the key to what you see lies below the surface, of one of the most extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand. You may like to also consider a stop at the iconic Huka Falls. Thunderous Huka Falls is New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction! While 47 rivers and streams feed into Lake Taupo only one river drains it – the Waikato River. Huka Falls is a series of amazing waterfalls on the Waikato River, a place where 58,100 gallons of water avalanches over a 36 ft rock face every second! You can take a jet boat ride (at an additional cost) to the base of the mightiest of the waterfalls, within a few feet of this awesome natural power or take a helicopter flight over the river and waterfalls – your pilot can get you very close and the roar of the waterfall is deafening and exhilarating! There are also many viewing platforms along the river, accessed by a short, easy walk. Overnight at Greenhill Lodge.

Greenhill Lodge is an intimate, tranquil and historic bed and breakfast. Ideally situated in the heart of New Zealand’s food and wine country, with over 50 wineries, local farmers markets and organic produce stores nearby. The bed and breakfast is a comfortable home that offers accommodation, a swimming pool and private hot tub that is surrounded by mature historic trees, overlooking lush farm and grazing land. Greenhill Lodge was built in the late 1800s and has many detailed features from this era. Large open fires, billiard room, both a dinning room and a drawing room and spacious en suite bedrooms that open out on to verandas or courtyards. 

Day 6 – Hawke’s Bay: This morning you will be met at your accommodation by your private guide and vehicle for your half day excursion through the wildlife protected Ahuriri Estuary. Enjoy a private tour of what was once a highly prized lagoon valued for its seafood, bird life and natures biodiversity. Share in the discovery of our creation story and the gods and guardians of our natural world. Observe and participate in our traditional food gathering practices once used by our ancestors and still successfully practiced today. Feast on your catch where it’s cooked and served with fresh Māori seafood and traditional culinary delights. Overnight at Greenhill Lodge.

Day 7 – Hawke’s Bay: Today you will be met at your accommodation by your guide and vehicle to enjoy a private wine tour of the Hawke’s Bay. Your wine tour will take you on a journey through gorgeous countryside and into the most famous wine growing regions of Hawke’s Bay. You will visit internationally recognized wineries, where you’ll take part in a series of comprehensive wine tastings. Continue to the stunning Te Mata Peak, where you can bask in a vinous glow, and put your day in perspective with a 360° bird’s eye view of the entire region. Overnight at Greenhill Lodge.

Day 8 – Te Anau: Today drive to Napier Airport and return your rental vehicle prior to your onward flight (approximately 30 minutes drive) to Queenstown. Upon arrival collect your rental vehicle and enjoy a scenic drive (approximately 2 hours drive) to the breathtaking Fiordland Lodge. Set in a World Heritage Area, Fiordland Lodge in Te Anau is the perfect base from where to explore Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, and the surrounding Fiordland National Park. Fiordland Lodge will be your exclusive retreat while you get the opportunity to discover one of the world’s most beautiful areas. It is an area where snow-capped mountains, rivers of ice, deep lakes, unbroken forests and tussock grasslands produce a landscape of exceptional beauty. Overnight at Fiordland Lodge.

Fiordland Lodge is an intimate family-owned lodge that offers world-renowned customized wilderness, wildlife, hiking, fly fishing and sightseeing adventures. The Lodge has just 10 rooms and two separate self-contained loft-style log cabins. Each Lodge room has a king-sized bed, private bathrooms and superb views of Lake Te Anau, with a private balcony upstairs or lawn access downstairs. 

Day 9 – Te Anau: This morning you will be met at your accommodation by your private vehicle and guide for a full day excursion into Milford Sound. Depart Milford Sound Wharf to undertake your cruise on the fiord – get up close to nature on the longest, small boat nature cruise in Milford Sound. This interactive and personal cruise offers an intimate Milford Sound experience and excellent viewing opportunity of wildlife including seals, dolphins and penguins when in season. Specialist Nature Guides share their local knowledge with lively and informative commentary while roaming the vessel delving into the history, geology and wildlife of the fiord, and the wheelhouse is open to join and speak with the skipper. With raincoats available on board, there’s a chance to taste pure glacial water straight from the waterfalls. Overnight at Fiordland Lodge.

Day 10 – Te Anau: This morning you will be met at your accommodation by your private guide to begin a spectacular Fiordland experience. Enjoy a shared 15-minute scenic helicopter flight to Mount Luxmore, enjoying a birds-eye view of the hidden lakes and beech forests that dot the landscape along the way. Landing away from the Kepler Track gives you the opportunity to take in the wild beauty of this high alpine area away from the crowds. Lookout over the township of Te Anau, across Lake Te Anau and Fiordland’s World Heritage wilderness. You will join the Kepler Track giving you an opportunity to conquer the summit affording you the best possible views, before hiking on the well-formed easy-going downhill section, walking past towering limestone bluffs and through a changing rainforest, catching glimpses of the lake as you descend. Once you reach Brod Bay, you will board a water taxi for your transfer back to Te Anau township, a perfect way to finish today’s Kepler adventure. On your arrival back to Te Anau you will be transferred to your accommodation. Overnight at Fiordland Lodge.

Day 11 – Queenstown: Today drive to the adventure capital Queenstown and to your accommodation (approximately 2 hours drive). Queenstown is a natural playground providing an incredible backdrop for a range of sights to see and things to do for adventurers of all persuasions. Overnight at Eichardt’s Private Hotel.

Eichardt’s Private Hotel provides fine accommodation in five luxurious Hotel Suites, four Lakefront Apartments, and the Eichardt’s Residence, all located in the historic district on a premium lakefront position at the heart of Queenstown’s cafe and restaurant precinct with some of the finest international shopping labels an easy stroll away. The Hotel reflects contemporary provincial elegance, its modern features in perfect harmony with the distinctive antiques and luxurious furnishings of this New Zealand icon.

Day 12 – Queenstown: This morning you will be met at your accommodation by your private vehicle and driver for a full day of local sightseeing, tailored to suit your interests. Enjoy a small group jetboat excursion on the Shotover River. Nothing you have experienced will have prepared you for the excitement of the Shotover Jet, a 25 minute ride speeding through the towering, rocky canyons of the South Island’s river of gold, the Shotover. The major highlight is the famous “Shotover Jet turn” where your boat spins a full 360 degrees in its own length. Continue to Queenstown Hill Viewpoint and picturesque Lake Hayes which is a favorite for photographers and artists for its mirror reflections. Enjoy a visit to Arrowtown, which has become an attraction as an example of a living historic gold-mining town. Strict preservation orders protect the originality of the town’s historic buildings, and the excellent Lakes District Museum has many displays pertaining to the pioneering past of the district. We suggest you enjoy lunch at one of the many local cafes (lunch payable direct). Continue to the Kawarau Bridge to watch the action at the world’s first bungy bridge, established in November 1988. The Kawarau Bungy Centre is an ecologically designed building which has been created in harmony with the unique landscape of the region and includes merchandise, cafe, interactive and interpretive areas, with excellent views of the 141 ft  jump itself. View the Lord of the Rings ‘Pillar of the Kings’ site and perhaps sample some of the world famous pinot noir from the region. You will be returned to your accommodation later this afternoon. Overnight at Eichardt’s Private Hotel.

Day 13 – Queenstown: Enjoy today at your leisure. Each of the seasons has its own special vibe in Queenstown, and the great thing is that most activities can be accessed all year round. World-renowned for its adventure, Queenstown is home to a huge choice of adrenaline activities including jet boating, bungy jumping, white water rafting, skydiving and even indoor thrills – all guaranteed to get your blood pumping! When the cooler months arrive, Queenstown transforms into a world class winter resort, with four ski areas and a range of activities, bars, restaurants and relaxation to make sure your winter holiday is as epic as possible. You can even combine a round of golf at one of Queenstown’s gorgeous clubs one morning with a tour of some of our wineries and cellar doors in Gibbston and further afield to discover just why Central Otago Pinot Noir is famous on the world stage. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace there’s plenty of recreational activities including hiking and biking trails to explore, guided tours, boat cruises, scenic flights or spa and wellness options to help you get away. Overnight at Eichardt’s Private Hotel.

Day 14 – Departure: Today drive to Queenstown Airport and return your rental vehicle in time to connect with your International departure flight (via Auckland).

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Quick Facts

Perfect for:

  • Perfect for Adventure Seekers
  • Perfect for Cultural Visits
  • Perfect for Water Activities
  • Duration 14 Days
  • Departures Anytime
  • Fitness Rating Moderate
  • Safari Type Nature
  • Style Luxury
  • Land-Only Price* $$$

*Pricing is per person and an estimate. Contact a Journey Specialist for a customized quote.
$ = Call for Pricing | $$ = $5,000 – $9,999 | $$$ = $10,000 – $20,000 | $$$$ = >$20,000

Contact a Journey Specialist